How technology can save you energy and money

July 20, 2016

 

david darmstandler

David Darmstandler

At Disneyland, in the late ‘90s, there was an exhibit that demonstrated the modern connected home. There were examples of central media controls, PA systems and many other bells and whistles. But the tech was bleeding edge; it was barely functional.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find working automation products breaking out of the lab and truly ready for prime time. A connected environment can tie multiple, disparate services together and simplify how they are triggered. From motion sensors to smart phone controls, your home and office can integrate a half dozen gadgets that bring efficiency to both life and your energy footprint.

Lights are one of the common starting points in the realm of automation. WeMo (wemo.com) products are very popular for home use. With WeMo, one can control lights from an iPhone or set a timer to turn particular lights on and off based on a schedule you set.

In office environments, motion sensors are paramount. It may not sound earth shattering, but the energy savings from keeping office, utility and conference room lights off while they’re not occupied can really add up. And with LED bulbs that snap to attention quickly when someone enters the room, the motion sensing approach is a perfect fit.

At the Datapath office, we use Nest (nest.com) to simplify temperature management. We can control the thermostat from a smartphone, set predetermined schedules or let Nest build a schedule based on our typical comings and goings.

Like many readers, my office has central air, but in newer office environments, “ductless” AC units can provide a better experience and are dramatically more energy efficient. A small, wall-mounted unit can deliver each office the ideal heating or cooling.

Consider the weekend worker who comes into the office on a Saturday. In a forced-air model, they might have to turn on air conditioning for the entire third floor. Not only does that scenario burn a ton of juice to cool a thousand square feet, the poor guy slaving away may wait an hour to get an ideal temp.

But with a room-based unit, the worker’s space reaches optimal temperature quickly and efficiently without struggling to control the unoccupied space as well.

I’ll mention one more automation gadget I found to be fairly remarkable. Ring (ring.com) is a connected doorbell mounted at your front door. It includes a traditional doorbell button along with a motion sensor, camera, microphone and speaker. Anytime Ring senses motion – or is pushed – my phone immediately connects me to the video feed of the doorbell.

From here, you can simply watch the action or you can begin a two-way conversation with the person at your doorstep. And the coolest part is you don’t even need to be at home.

Ring is a WiFi enabled device that can alert your phone wherever you may be. So you can lie to the UPS lady to “go ahead and leave the package. I’m in the backyard,” Or you can talk to the stranger potentially casing the house or just checking to see if anyone is home that, “Yes, I’m cooking dinner right now and I’m not interested.”

Even beyond these situations, you gain the general understanding of all activity at your front door. You would know when the nanny leaves or when the housekeeper arrives —  date and time stamped. This creates very little energy savings in terms of fossil fuels, but the conservation of your personal energy is priceless.

I highly recommend taking a peek at the latest connected devices flooding the market this year. Many save energy; some just save time. But taken together, they could just transform your home or your office into your own personal Disneyland.

David Darmstandler is CEO of Datapath, an IT services company with headquarters in Modesto. You can reach him at david@mydatapath.com.

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